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IMJM

THE INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL JOURNAL Malaysia

Prevalence and Risk Factors Associated With Otitis


Media with Effusion in Children Visiting Tertiary Care
Centre in Malaysia
Tikaram A, Chew YK, Zulkiflee AB, Chong AW, Prepageran N
Dept. of Otorhinolaryngology, Faculty of Medicine, University Malaya
ABSTRACT
Introduction: The aim of this study is to determine the prevalence of otitis media with effusion (OME) in
Malaysian children between three months to twelve years of age and to identify the risk factors associated
with it. Materials and methods: This is a cross-sectional study consists of 153 children selected by stratified
random sampling method. Parents of these children were interviewed with a structured questionnaire.
Clinical examination, including otoscopic examination and tympanometry was performed for each child.
Results: The prevalence of OME was 18.3%. There was no statistical significant relationship between OME and
gender, race, household size, attendance to daycare center, breast feeding, and exposure to passive smoking,
allergy, and asthma. Conclusion: The prevalence of OME is 18.3% in Malaysian children between three months
to twelve years of age. Frequency of AOM is a statistically significant factor to the development of OME later
in life. The different risk factors associated with OME are still controversial.
KEYWORDS: Otitis media with effusion; risk factors; prevalence
INTRODUCTION
Otitis media with effusion (OME) is a middle ear
disease characterized by presence of mucoid effusion
in the middle ear without any signs of acute infection.1
This is a common clinical entity among the children.
Since the disease is benign with an insidious onset,
the diagnosis is usually delayed. The presence of fluid
in the middle ear results in the impaired mobility of
tympanic membrane and a conductive type of hearing
loss. The complications and sequels of OME are an
important public health problem. The patients will
have impaired development of speech and language,
poor school performance, tympanosclerosis, retraction
pockets and psychosocial problems.2, 3, 4
The pathogenesis of otitis media with effusion is
still controversial. The causes such as Eustachian
tube dysfunction, insufficient pneumatization of
mastoid, craniofacial abnormalities, infections,
immunodeficiency, and allergic agents are widely
discussed. Various risk factors are implicated such
as sex, race, premature delivery, passive smoking,
allergy, asthma, family size, bottle feeding,
socioeconomic status, cleft palate, adenoid hypertrophy, have been studied and are still controversial.1-4
Corresponding author:
Tikaram Adhikari
Dept of Otorhinolaryngology
Faculty of Medicine
University Malaya
59000, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 00603-79492062
Fax: 00603-79495563
Email: tikaram78@gmail.com
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37

Although many studies on the prevalence and risk


factors of OME have been done in the west, there
are very few Malaysian studies. The risk factors in
different studies have remained controversial. The
aim of the study was to find the prevalence of OME
and its associated risk factors in Malaysian children
visiting tertiary care center and to identify the risk
factors associated with OME.
MATERIAL AND METHOD
This is a cross-sectional study done in Klang Valley.
The study population consists of children between
three months to 12 years old who visited our
tertiary medical care center for non otological problem
such as in pediatric clinic or were accompanying
parents visiting the hospitals. Children were randomly
selected. Informed consent was obtained from the
parents who agreed to be interviewed and have their
children examined.
The structured questionnaire consists of two parts.
The first part was to identify the risk factors associated
with OME, and the second part was to determine
the incidence of AOM and its relationship with OME.
The risk factors as in Table I were assessed. For the
incidence of AOM and its relationship to OME the
questions in Table II were asked.
Otoscopic examination and tympanometry were
performed. The otoscopic finding was labeled as
normal, evidence of scarring/thin ear drum, retracted
ear drum or glue ear. The tympanometry was done
using portable tympanometry. It was regarded as
normal, type B and type C. In this study, we
categorized the presence of abnormal otoscopic
finding; type B tympanogram or both as OME.

IMJM

THE INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL JOURNAL Malaysia

Table I: Risk factors of OME


Age
Single or both parents
No of siblings
Sex
Race
Daycare attendance
Breastfeeding
Exposed to passive smoking
Allergy
Asthma
The diagnosis of previous AOM was applied if the child
had been diagnosed previously by medical personnels;
or presence of previous history of painful purulent
otorrhea. The various risk factor assessments were
done using the SPSS 13 and the chi-square test was
used to find the statistical significance. Statistical
significant level is at P value <0.05.
RESULT
A total of 153 children were examined. The age
group varied between three months to 12 years with
mean age of 5.99. There were 83(54.2%) males and
70(45.8%) females. The population studied consists of
Malay 84(54.9%), Indian 39(25.5%), Chinese 25(16.3%)
and others 5(3.3%).
There was no significant statistical relationship
between OME and age, sex, race, single or both parent's
presents, or number of siblings. The relationship
between OME and visit to day-care centre,
breast-feeding in childhood, passively exposed to
smoking, allergy and asthma were also found to be
statistically not significant. Table III shows the
relationship between OME and risk factors.
With regards to the prevalence of AOM, 14 out of
153 were diagnosed as AOM in last three years. The
children who were diagnosed with AOM had a higher
incidence of OME, and this was statistically significant.
The otalgia was present in 14 children. Four of
the children had hearing problem. None of the
children in this study had undergone any otological
surgery. Table IV shows the relationship between AOM
and OME, analysed using chi-square test.
DISCUSSION
The prevalence of OME is rather variable, ranging
from 1.3 to 31.3%, which affect by the geographical
area, races and studied population. The prevalence
was 9.5% in Caucasians,5 5.3% in Chinese,6 13.8% in
Malaysian population.7 In the literature, the range of
prevalence of OME is wide as the population studied,
the countries, environmental factors and climatic
factors were different.8 In our study, the overall
prevalence of OME was 18.3%. There were studies which
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Table II: Questions of relationship between AOM


and OME
Any history of ear infection in last
3 years?
Any history of pus/fluid discharge in
last 3 years?
Any hearing problem with child?
Any earache in last 3 years?
Any previous ear surgery done?
showed higher prevalence in male,9,10,11 owing to higher
incidence of infectious disease in male. However,
there were also studies which showed no gender
preponderance.7 We did not find any significant
difference in prevalence of OME between male and
female in our data. In the West, there were studies
which showed prevalence of OME to be higher in the
whites than in blacks,12 Indians and Eskimos.9 Our
result did not show any significant difference between
different races, consist of Malays, Chinese, and Indians
which is consistent with previous Malaysian studies.7
Gultekin et al. and Sassen showed that higher number
of siblings in family increases the risk of OME.13,14
We did not find significant relationship between the
number of siblings and the prevalence of OME.
Children who attended daycare centres have increased
risk of OME due to overcrowding and increased risk
of cross infection in studies done earlier.1,13,15,16,17,18
However Sassen did not establish significant relation
between OME and daycare stay after the confounding
factors were eliminated.14 Our study also did not
identify any significant relationship between OME
and attendance to daycare center. The confounding
factor needs to be taken into consideration before a
conclusion is reached.
Various studies done in the past support the
protective role of breast-feeding and development
of OME,7,10,11,19 but other studies did not establish a
significant relationship between the two.13,14,20,21
Breastfeeding may be protective in early years of
life, but its protective action may not cover the older
children. We could not establish any statistical
relation between exposure to passive smoking and
development of OME. This is parallel with the
findings of previous studies done by Blackley and
Blackley,4 and few others.7,14,21-23 There were a few other
studies, which clearly demonstrated the relationship
between the two.24-26 No significant association was
also found between allergy and asthma in relation
to OME, which was similar to previous studies done
by Saim,7 but contrasted with the study done by
E.Gultekin.13 Of the 153 children screened, 14 were
diagnosed as AOM in last three years. Alho et al. also
showed that previous AOM was the greatest risk factor
for the development of OME.1 AOM interferes with the
Eustachian tube functions and leads to accumulation
of fluid in the middle ear as found by Sassen.14

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THE INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL JOURNAL Malaysia

Table III: Relationship between OME and risk factors

Risk factors

No of children

Gender
Male
Female
Race
Malay
Indian
Chinese
Others
Parents
Single
Both
No of children
1
2
3
4
5
>=6
Day care centre
Yes
No
Exposed to passive
smoking
Never
Rarely
Frequently
Allergy
Yes
No
Asthma
Yes
No

OME present

83
70

14
14

84
25
39
5

15
5
6
2

2
151

2
26

19
44
51
29
5
5

5
8
8
6
1
0

103
50
87
21
45

P value
0.677

0.603

0.033

0.808

20
8
12
5
11

0.663

0.254

24
129

7
21

0.153

30
123

7
21

0.436

P value obtained by chi-square test


Problem

Table IV: Relationship between AOM and OME.

Diagnosed with
ear infection
Yes
No
Hearing problem
Yes
No
Pus discharge
Yes
No
Earache
Yes
No
Surgery to ear
Yes
No

No of children

14
139

39

10
18

4
149

3
125

14
139

4
24

17
137

11
17

0
153

0
28

P value obtained by chi square test


Volume 11 Number 1 June 2012

OME present

P value

<0.001
0.296

0.366
<0.001
Not available

IMJM

THE INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL JOURNAL Malaysia

13.
Gultekin E, Develiolu ON, Yener M, Ozdemir I,

Kleki M. Prevalence and risk factors for

persistent otitis media with effusion
The prevalence of OME in Malaysian children between

in primary school children in Istanbul, Turkey.
three months to twelve years old is 18.3%. Those

Auris Nasus Larynx 2010;37:145-9.
children suffering from frequent episodes of AOM
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Other factors such as gender, race, household size,
years of age. Am J Otolaryngol 1997;18:324-
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smoking, allergy, asthma were not statistically 30.
15.
Rasmussen F. Protracted secretory otitis
significant.

media. The impact of familial factors and

day-care center attendance. Int J Pediatr
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